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Engaging with People Who Have Mobility Impairments

What are mobility impairments?

Mobility impairments are disabilities that affect movement, ranging from gross motor skills, such as walking, to fine motor movement, like involving manipulation of objects by hand. This can include people who are unsteady on their feet, and those who use a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair.

How to assist someone with a mobility impairment

  • Allow people to be as independent as possible by helping them only when they request it. If they appear to need help, ask them if they could use some assistance before helping.
  • If it is necessary to transport a person up or down stairs, lift only where and how you are instructed to lift. People with a mobility impairment may also have difficulty protecting themselves and improper assistance could result in serious injury. The person with the disability is the expert!
  • If you are planning an outing, make sure that the destination is barrier-free to avoid embarrassment and/or frustration for people who use wheelchairs or have other accessibility needs. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people directly to find out if a space will work for them. This models humility, makes them the expert about their needs, and conveys the desire for each person to be able to participate fully. 

Talking with someone with a mobility impairment

Make sure you’re communicating with people who have mobility impairments as equals. Sometimes people unintentionally talk down to someone who has a mobility impairment. Follow these simple tips to converse with respect. 
  • If you expect that you will be talking with someone who uses a wheelchair or cane for a while (say two minutes or more), try to get to eye level—perhaps by taking a seat yourself or by kneeling. Check in with them to ensure their comfort. It may be easier to move to a different space for an extended conversation.
  • Make sure you speak directly to people who use wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment and not only to non-disabled companions who may be present.
Everybody Belongs, Serving Together is a collaboration of RCA and CRCNA Disability Concerns, Christian Horizons, and Elim Christian Services.

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